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South Antrim event to recall "Long March to Derry" - Kearney

31 December, 2018 - by Declan Kearney

An evening to recall the landmark civil rights march on 1st January 1969 from Belfast to Derry city, passing through Antrim, Randalstown and Toome, will be held in the O’Neill Arms Country House Hotel, Toome on Friday 4th January 2019 at 7pm.

Unionist protestors physically confronted the original march on the bridges in both Antrim & Randalstown before it was ambushed at Burntollet by a combined force of B-Specials and unionists a few miles outside Derry. 

Describing the event in Toome as an evening of local reminiscence and political discussion fifty years on, South Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney said;

"The 'Long March to Derry', modelled on the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march in America, was another key episode which exposed the irreformablenature of the old unionist state. Many local people still recall the passage of the student marchers through this area. 

“After being attacked at Fountain Street in Antrim by local unionists they slept overnight in the Hibernian hall at Whitehill. Their progress was again blocked the following day when a large crowd of unionist protesters assembled on the bridge at Randalstown. Under threat of violence, the marchers were transported in a convoy of private cars to resume their march beyond the town’s perimeter and onwards to Toome.

"A video has been produced with recollections from local people who were both involved with, or observed the civil rights campaign locally at the time. This will be shown during our evening of reminiscence, along with another special video production shown earlier in Belfast this year. The event will be compered by Danny Morrison and contributions will be made by former South Antrim MLA, Mitchel Mc Laughlin, who is a veteran of the civil rights era, and myself.

"The event is open to the public and promises to be both nostalgic and educational. It will focus on the denial of rights in 1969 which brought the civil rights movement onto the streets originally, and the ongoing denial of rights and opposition to implementation of the Good Friday Agreement which is blocking the reestablishment of the local political institutions in the north.” 

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